NZ win tough encounter against Arg
Two late tries from wingers Julian Savea and Cory Jane gave the All Blacks a 21-5 victory over Argentina in their Rugby Championship match that was disrupted by a power cut in the port area of New Zealand's capital city on Saturday.
Wellington Regional Stadium, which sits on land adjacent to the port, was plunged into darkness during the halftime break because of the outage, which delayed the start of the second half for about 15 minutes.
The blackout was an apt metaphor for the game, with few highlights to speak of as both sides battled driving rain and swirling gale-force winds.
Even so, the Pumas dispelled any thoughts it could take them a couple of years to be competitive in the southern hemisphere competition.
"The Argentinians were in the game," New Zealand coach Steve Hansen told reporters after his side completed their 13th successive test win. "They're a welcome addition to this competition.
"They're only going to get better and better. They're already a very good side at the moment."
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Argentina had drawn 16-16 with the Springboks in Mendoza two weeks ago, a match they probably should have won, to demonstrate they were more than competitive.
New Zealand and Argentina had met last year in the rugby World Cup quarterfinals, with the All Blacks taking more than 60 minutes to finally subdue the Pumas with Piri Weepu kicking seven penalties in a 33-10 win.
It was a similar pattern on Saturday, when it took until the 66th minute before the All Blacks finally cracked the Pumas' defence when Savea was put over in the corner after Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith had created some space.
The All Blacks followed it up with a try for Jane six minutes later from a long cut out pass by flyhalf Aaron Cruden to give the All Blacks a 19-5 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining and put the game out of reach.
Prior to that point, the Pumas had been brutal in defence and brilliant at controlling the tempo of the game as they slowed it down at every opportunity, meandering to lineouts and taking time to set their scrum.
They also flooded the breakdown with their second and third tacklers flopping over the ball carrier in an attempt to stop the world champions developing momentum as the All Blacks failed to adequately clear them from the ruck.
The All Blacks, however, only had themselves to blame for much of their performance as they failed to correct errors that had blighted their previous two matches in the competition, back-to-back victories over Australia.
They committed basic mistakes with what ball they did have, dropping passes, getting penalised for holding on to it for too long and poor decision making.
"We probably need to hold the ball at times when we tried to push passes," New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said.
"There was space there and we were trying to get the ball there, that put us under pressure and that's when we turned the ball over."
The first half produced limited scoring opportunities with flyhalf Cruden kicking two penalties for the home side in the first spell while veteran prop Rodrigo Roncero scored the only try after Nonu had turned the ball over inside his own 22-metre area.
Cruden kicked an early penalty in the second half and while the All Blacks controlled territory and possession it was not until the last 15 minutes that they managed to crack the defensive screen and pull away.
"We are disappointed with the result but happy with the way the players are playing the game," Pumas coach Santiago Phelan said. "The players gave 100 percent and that is very important for us ...because we have to keep on improving because we are playing the best teams in the world."
New Zealand – Tries: Julian Savea, Cory Jane. Conversion: Aaron Cruden. Penalties: Cruden (3).
Argentina –Try: Rodrigo Roncero.